The Art of the Yoko Ono Challenge

But Machunas was a staunch organizer, a problem because he happened to work with avant-garde artists, such as people who don’t like to be organized. For years he tried to graze these cats. He opened FluxShop, where you could buy Fluxus art – mostly cheap plastic boxes full of odds and edges. (The entry business was not lively.) At one point, he made plans to buy an island and build a self-sufficient Fluxus community on it.

The island venture failed, but Machunas will finally realize his idea by buying and renovating abandoned buildings – more than twenty – in downtown Manhattan for artists to live and work. The company ruined it. He was sued by the tenants because the repairs were not in accordance with the requirements and the attics could not be inspected, and he was brutally beaten by fraudsters hired by one of his creditors. In the mid-1970s, he fled the city to a farm in Massachusetts, where he died of cancer in 1978. But he had given birth to Soho. In 1980 it will become the world capital of contemporary art.

Maciunas’ slogan for Fluxus was “Clear the world of Europeanism!”, And when Fluxus debuted in West Germany in 1962, the piano was smashed to pieces. The one who was invited but refused to attend did not like to break the piano. “I’m not someone who wants to burn the Mona Lisa,” she once said. “That’s the difference between some revolutionaries and me.” But she shares something with Machunas. She is a utopian. She would be happy if the whole world could be Fluxus Island.

In 1962, Ono returned to Japan. She finds that the Japanese avant-garde is even more radical than the New York avant-garde. There were many new schools. The most famous today is Gutai, which originated in Osaka in 1954. Like Fluxus, Gutai is a performative, low-tech art form with everyday materials. One of Gutai’s earliest works is Challenging Mud, in which the artist throws himself into an open pit filled with wet clay and crashes for about half an hour. When it emerges, the shape of the clay is presented as a work of art.

Ichianagi returned earlier – the marriage was falling apart – and he arranged for Ono to give a concert at the Sogetsu Art Center in Tokyo. Outside the room, she mounted what she called “Picture Instructions,” twenty-two pieces of paper attached to the wall, each with a set of Japanese instructions. The instructions resemble some of the art created by young artists in the Cage Circle in New York – for example, Emmett Williams’ “Voice for La Monte Young” (1961), which reads in its entirety “Ask if La Monte Young is in the audience after this come out ”and Brecht’s“ Event of the Words ”, the full score for which is the word“ Exodus ”.

In the hall, with thirty artists, Ono performed several plays, including some she had performed at the Carnegie Recital Hall. It’s not clear how the audience reacted – Brackett said she was enthusiastic – but the show received an ugly review in a Japanese art magazine from American immigrant Donald Richie, who mocked Ono for being “old-fashioned.” “All her ideas were borrowed from people in New York, especially from John Cage,” he wrote. This was not an attack by an incomprehensible traditionalist. It was an attack by the cultural left. It was traumatized. She registered at a sanatorium.

But when she came out, she continued where she left off. She remarried Tony Cox, an American art and countercultural promoter, and in 1964 published her first book, Grapefruit, a collection of scores and event instructions:

Sunny part

Watch the sun until it is square.

Fly Piece


Collecting a piece II

Smash a modern museum to pieces with the means you have chosen. Gather the pieces and put them back with glue.

They are like Brecht’s The Event of Words, but with a big difference. The “event of the word” was meant to be performed and the artists found various ingenious ways to perform the instruction “Exit”. Ono’s plays cannot be performed. These are instructions for imaginary actions.

In an essay in a Japanese art magazine, she refers to the concept of “fictional truth”, which means that the things we invent in our heads (what we would like to have for dinner) are as much our reality as the chair. which we sit. “I think it’s possible to see the chair as it is,” she explained. “But when you burn the chair, you suddenly realize that the chair in your mind has not burned or disappeared.”

What Ono was doing was conceptual art. When conceptual artists hit the big time, in the late 1960s, her name was virtually never mentioned. She did not appear in the remarkable essay by art critics Lucy Lipard and John Chandler, The Dematerialization of Art, published in 1968. But she was one of the first artists to do so.

In 1965 she returned to New York and in March had another show at Carnegie Recital Hall, The New Works of Yoko Ono. It was the New York premiere of her best work, a truly great work of art, Cut Piece.

The performer (in this case Ono) enters fully clothed and kneels in the center of the stage. Next to it is a large pair of scissors – fabric scissors. The audience is invited to come on stage one by one and cut a piece of the artist’s clothing that he can keep. According to the instructions Ono later wrote: “The performer remained motionless throughout the piece. The play ends at the choice of the performer. ” She said she wore her best clothes when she was doing her job, even when she had little money and couldn’t afford to ruin it.

Ono performed “Cut Piece” in Tokyo and Kyoto and has photos from these performances. The show in New York was filmed by documentarians David and Albert Maisles. (Brackett, oddly enough, says the Maysleses film, not a live performance, is what people saw at Carnegie Recital Hall.)

In most events and the art of events, the performers are artists or friends of the person who wrote the score. In Cut Piece, the performers are unknown to the artist. They can interpret the instructions in an unpredictable way. It’s like handing out loaded weapons to a room full of strangers. It is small (five or two); the scissors are large and sharp. When members of the audience begin to cut the tissue around her chest or near her crotch, there is a real sense of danger and violation. In Japan, one of the scissors stood behind her, holding the scissors over her head as if to stab her.

The result required Ono to remain expressionless, but in the film you can see the fear in her eyes as members of the audience continue to climb the stage and stand over it with scissors, looking for another place to cut. When her bra is cut, she covers her breasts with her hands – almost her only movement in the whole piece.

The most immediate “Cut Piece” is a concrete performance of the striptease that men perform in their heads when they see an attractive woman. He arms the male gaze. Women are involved in circumcision, but this is because not only men are part of a society that objectifies women. Therefore, the work is classified as a work of feminist art (created at a time when almost no one has made feminist art), and obviously so.

But what “Cut Piece” means depends largely on the audience for which it is performed, and Ono originally had something else in mind. When she made the song in Japan, a Buddhist interpretation was possible. It was part of the Zen tradition of doing what was most inconvenient for you and seeing what you came up with and how you handled it, “she said.

The piece also comes, Ono said elsewhere, from a story about a Buddha who gives away everything people want him to until he is finally allowed to be eaten by a tiger. It offered everything it had to strangers, so it always wore its best clothes. “Instead of giving the audience what the artist chooses to give,” she put it, “the artist gives what the audience chooses to take.”

In 1966, Ono traveled to London to participate in the Destruction in Art Symposium, where he performed Twice Cut. It was not read as a Buddhist text at these events. Word of mouth after the first performance she came across an overcrowding of the second, as the men impatiently cut off all her clothes, even her underwear. It was Swinging London; everyone assumed the song was for sex. After London, Ono did it only in 2003, when she did it in Paris, sitting on a chair. This time, she explained that the work is for world peace and a response on September 11.

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